Trip Start Mar 11, 2010
Trip End May 01, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Grand Tashkent

Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Im safe and well. I heard about the trouble up in Talas from the guy at the kebab shop where I had dinner every night. He said be careful But I had already booked my ticket out. Good luck not good management that I just happened to leave on the day of the coupe. If I had stayed on my original plan I would have been caught up in it in Naryn and be stuck there. Reports here are Uzbekistan has closed the border and looks like China as well. Dont know what coverage you are getting but if you look you will see in my photos I was in the square the day before. Look for the big flag and the statue. That pic was taken from the square. One of the shops that was looted I got easter chocies. Lucky cos there is nothing left at all now.
Any way now Im in Tashkent. Remember the old spy movies when the top spy always had a close call in the bazaar in Tashkent. Well Im there now. This is a Silk Road city and has been around for over 3000 years. There is none of the old stuff left now cos the place has been sacked and looted by every man and his dog, including our old mate Jenghis Khan.
To get here I thought it would be hard to get a cab to the airport so I left 1/2hr early. I was wrong and I got a cab pretty quick so I had a wait at the airport to 'check in'.  They do it a bit different here. You gotta go through soo many security checks and every one I had to take off shoes, belt, glasses, jacket, hat, just about strip to jocks and socks.
The flight was only 1hr so I didnt expect to be fed just the usual drink but I was wrong, they fed us. I got a salami stick, bread roll and cream cheese and a walnut and sultana cake. How about that for a combination. There is NO WAY I would EVER touch any of that in a place like this. That is a recipe for disaster with a crook guts at least and could be worse.  This was ariline food so I ate it and Im glad to say Im fine. In fact I havnt had a runny bum at all on this trip. On the plane I filled out the customs dec's (you gotta do 2) and put all the money I was carrying, otherwise they can confiscate it if you dont declare it. No one has asked for my visa.
On the bus from the plane to the terminal a tour group leader anounced to his group the first checkpoint was for passport only. I was last in line and ended up chatting to a couple of them then when I got to the counter the guy thumbed through my passport a couple of times. He said "visa" I said "LOI" and showed him my paperwork. He had to go and wake up the visa guy so I had to sit and wait. The visa guy was great and ended up giving me a visa longer than LOI paperwork and only took 20min all up. Cost $70 US.
I got the last taxi tout, Mohammad. Now he spoke english so I showed him where I wanted to go and he said he knew it. He wanted $10 US which is way too high but I said I would pay it if we get there if not Im not paying anything. He agreed so off we go. I was trying to short circuit things by going to the travel agent who did my LOI so I could book train tickets and flight home. When we got there the place does not exist at that address. Change plan, go to hotel. The one I picked was a rat hole, Even I wouldnt stay there. Try another one, closed. Mohammad got one, too expensive, another one full.. After about 3 hours we ended up back where Im staying and I used my charm to get a discount from the young girl. Well she didnt have a chance after I turned on the charm did she?
I had to change some money. Mohammad took me to the market so I could change some on the black market. Here you are supposed to change at the bank and they might ask for reciepts for changing when I leave so I gotta be a bit careful. The money is getting ridiculous. In China it was 6 yuan to $1, Kyrg was 40 som to $1 here it is 2000sum to $1. Now the biggest note they have is 1000 sum, that is 50c. I changed $200 and they gave me 400 1000 sum notes. wait till you see the stack in my hand. I have to carry my backpack to carry the money. These blokes sneak around the markets dressed in black and whisper and hide around corners, they think they are the Russian mafia. Jeez, they're breaking the law in an ex soviet country that is now a dictatorship, chillout.
From a day that was rapidly turning to shite, it ended OK. I booked a train ticket, at the station. Im not supposed to be able to do that without OVIR  but I did with the help of a couple of cops. (OVIR Office of Visitor something Registration) Everytime I do something it has to be registered. I got my first regristration today from the hotel Im staying at. When I leave I gotta hand them all in and everywhere I stay they have to register me or I have to do it. Also I booked my ticket to fly outa here. I leave on the 28th so have 3 days in KL on the way home cos Uzbekistan Airlines only fly there twice a week. I woulda thought there was a lot of call for flights from Tashkent to KL.
Today I just walked around the place checking everything out. Im in the Russian part of town and there is not a lot of stuff to look at. When I come back I will stay the other side of town so I can show you Old town. I hope it is worth waiting for. When I put up pics I will try to get the captions right if I know them otherwise Google them.
I had my first shake down by a cop today. They are notorious for shaking down tourists in the underground but I was ready for him. He wanted to see my passport. I said it was at the embasy for visa and showed him a photocopy I bought from home for just such an occurence. I have writen on it "passport at embasy for visa" and signed it myself. He doesnt know? I pointed out passport, embasy and visa and he seemed OK. They usually hold out for cash before you get the passport back. Then he wanted to check my back pack. I opened it, grabbed my passport and said "book" then my Lonely planet and said "book" then "jacket" "nuts" and he seemed OK again. I walked off thinking "sucked in copper" He thinks Im new to this caper.
Im booked on overnight train to Urgench tomorrow night, should be about 20hr. I will prolly stay overnight in Urgench then take a taxi to Khiva the next day, unless the train get in early then I might get taxi to Khiva that night. The big three are coming up next. Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Google image them if you want to see why.
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Ngaere on

So good to hear from you. Continue to enjoy the final destinations. I will find them on google to see what you hope to see. Lots of love

ashlea on

this place looks nicer :)

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